Great Reversion Elixir
The term Great Reversion Elixir was firstly used in e Three Ways Unified and Normalized of the Book of Changes《周易參同契》 Zhouyi Cantong Qi ), which mentioned the term at the end of first chapter. He said, “the attainment of the Reversion Elixir ought to follow the return to the initial state of Spiritual Nature” ( 性 Xing ), but he mentioned nothing about any differences between either the “Great” Reversion Elixir and the Small Reversion Elixir ( 小還丹 Xiaohuan Dan ), or the “Inner” and “Outer” ones. Obviously, in the book, Reversion Elixir only served as a symbol, which pointed to basic rules governing both Inner Alchemy and Outer Alchemy.
In the late period, Ge Hong, the famous Daoist scholar, highlighted the important role of the Reversion Elixir in extending human life from the perspective of Outer Alchemy ( 外丹 Waidan ). Ge stressed that the root of human longevity lay in the Reversion Elixir, which was attained by refining the Nine-reversion Elixir.
Since the end of the Tang dynasty, Outer Alchemy saw a series of failures in practice. Daoism began to shift its effort to Inner Alchemy. Accordingly, Reversion Elixir was used to describe Inner Alchemy. In the books on Inner Alchemy, the Great Reversion Elixir stood for the Small Elixir-based refinements, which would lead to a full circulation of the Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ) across the Twelve Channels and Collaterals ( 十二經絡 Shier Jingluo ) in human bodies, a state known as the Seven Returns and Nine Reversions ( 七返九還 Qifan Jiuhuan ) in a Daoist term that allegedly credited its origin to the mathematical principles of the River Chart . According to the River Chart ( 河圖 Hetu ), nine numbers, namely, from one up to nine, normally standing for five directions separately, suggested the seasonal changes of the Vital Breath of the Universe. Daoist Alchemists introduced the theory into their Studies of Inner Alchemy, arguing that the circulation of Vital Breath in human bodies followed the same movement rules as the Vital Breath of the Universe, rotating from Six in the north to Seven in the south, then from Eight in the east to Nine in the west. Among them, the number Nine stood for the extremity of Yang, also the point of reversion. In Chinese, Nine Reversion referred to perfection or extremity, which also suggested a start of another round of movement.
Generally speaking, the Great Reversion Elixir stands for the highest achievement of Refinement of Inner Alchemy, a goal beyond most people’s capacity. Every single step demands years of effort and practice, and above all, correct methods and a healthy mentality.